News & Updates

3 October 2020 • General

Canterbury and North Harbour claim road relay glory

Photo: Andy Good helped claim the senior men’s title for the University of Canterbury AC (Credit: Ethan Gillespie)

The University of Canterbury shattered the course record en route to clinching a richly-deserved first senior men’s title in nine years while North Harbour Bays earned a fifth women’s win in eight editions at the New Zealand Road Relay Championships in sunny Feilding today.

Following narrow defeats of less than a minute to Wellington Scottish in each of the past two years, the University of Canterbury were not lacking in motivation to climb to the top of the men’s podium.

The Christchurch-based club made their intentions known from the first leg, seizing control of the race with New Zealand mountain running champion Andy Good establishing a 56-second advantage from Tayler Reid of Pakuranga AC.

It was a lead the classy seven-strong University of Canterbury team did not relinquish, as they went on to complete the 67.467km distance in an eye-catching 3:30:03 – to wipe almost five minutes from the course record set by Wellington Scottish.

Some 6:40 further back, Pakuranga AC enjoyed a strong outing to take an impressive second spot.

Wellington Scottish, who were bidding for what would have been a record-breaking sixth successive men’s senior title, secured third in a total time of 3:37:57.

Following Good’s impressive first leg, Tom Moulai and Oska Baynes maintained the advantage – give or take 10 seconds or so – for Canterbury until Chris Dryden unleashed a stunning performance to stop the clock in 29:22 and wipe 33 seconds from Dale Warrander’s previous fourth-lap record time.

In the process, the University of Canterbury opened up a 2:34 lead on nearest pursuers Wellington Scottish. The leaders then took a giant stride towards victory on lap five as Saxon Morgan blasted to a 30:03 clocking to open up a near five-minute lead on Scottish.

It was then left to Daniel Balchin and Connor Melton to bring home the University of Canterbury to a memorable and sweet victory.

Behind, an impressive sixth-leg performance by Sam Ward (29:15) helped catapult Pakuranga from fourth to second – a position the Auckland-based club maintained to the finish.

“The boys were very motivated after losing by such small margins the past two years,” University of Canterbury team manager Craig Motley said.

“We knew the course from last year but we had a few new names this year, so we wanted to drive over the course first before we made the call as to who ran what leg.”

Motley was delighted with the efforts of his dominant team and, although never totally confident of victory due to the many vagaries of relay racing, he was quietly hopeful after lap five that the University of Canterbury could deliver the title, which they duly did.

“We are a proud club with a good relay record,” he added.

“We’ve won a number of titles and medals over the years and we put a lot of focus on competing well at the last true club championship. The event is huge for club spirit and winning today is a big boost going into next year, where we’ll be looking to retain the title.”

North Harbour Bays regained the senior women’s crown they last snared in 2017 with a dominant display to complete a fifth win in eight years.

The Auckland-based club ran out winners in a time of 4:25:05 – some 6:29 clear of the 2019 champions Wellington Harriers. In a thrilling battle for third, Don Greig Racing Stables held off the University of Canterbury by just eight seconds – recording a time of 4:36:47.

Auckland City, courtesy of a rapid first leg of 35:25 by 2019 New Zealand cross country champion Maiya Christini, opened up a 57-second lead on Anneke Grogan of North Harbour Bays.

However, by the end of lap two the North Shore-based team had hit the front, holding a narrow six-second lead from Auckland City after an impressive 37:15 from Hayley Green.

By the end of lap three, North Harbour Bays seized complete control of the race following a 39:59 leg by Brigid Dennehy, which opened up a 4:35 advantage on nearest pursuers, the University of Canterbury.

The runaway leaders continued to pile on the pressure with Sabina Piras (39:00) and Lucy Jacobs (36:57) producing the day’s fastest fifth and sixth leg times in the senior women’s event to further extend Bays’ advantage.

It was then left to Annika Pfitzinger to bring home North Harbour Bays to victory on the anchor leg.

Wellington Harriers produced a strong back-end display to take second with Mary Gray (Don Greig Racing Stables) holding off a charging Jess Schofield of the University of Canterbury on anchor to snatch the final podium spot.

“We are just so happy to be here today,” Bays women’s team captain Hayley Green said.

“We were unsure if we would be able to compete until a few weeks ago, and we had an extra lockdown to train through. But the team stayed strong and trained hard through the second lockdown. We are happy to take the title.”

Also competing on the long course in Feilding, Wellington Scottish won the new men’s masters 35-49 age division in 3:52:34 to clinch victory by a 7:18 margin from Auckland-based Owairaka Athletics.

Scottish were also victorious in the masters men’s 50+ division, claiming a third straight title in 4:14:25 with Owairaka claiming second spot once again (4:19:32).

Wellington Harriers deposed Wellington Scottish of the women’s masters 35+ title to claim a dominant win in 4:49:25 with Scottish nearly seven minutes further back in second.

Pakuranga AC claimed their first ever victory in the junior men’s race and did so in a short course record time to deny host club Feilding Moa Harriers a second successive title.

The Auckland-based club completed the six-person 38.368km distance in 2:05:11 – with Zane Powell particularly impressive courtesy of a record-breaking fourth-lap time of 20:48 – to repel Feilding Moa by a 1:04 margin. Christchurch Avon in 2:07:10 claimed third.

Olympic Harriers earned a maiden success in the junior women’s event with an impressive victory in a cumulative total time of 2:28:39. Auckland City were a further 2:28 back in second. Wellington Harriers, the 2018 and 2019 champions, rounded out the top three in 2:34:56.

Also competing on the short course, Wellington Scottish retained their masters women’s 50+ crown. Scottish provided both entrants with their winning half dozen recording a time of 3:00:48.

The inaugural open 60+ race (previously this was competed as a male-only race) saw Athletics Nelson edge a thrilling battle in 2:40:18 from Christchurch Avon by a 53-second margin.

Wellington Scottish was named the top club, winning on a count back from Wellington Harrier Athletic Club after they initially scored equal points. Scottish have now won the title 14 times in the last 20 years.

For the full results from the New Zealand Road Relay Championships please click here